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Posts Tagged ‘ Racing Santander ’

FC Barcelona’s Irish Saviour

The generation of football fans which has grown up with the instantly recognisable and world revered and feared brand of tika-taka football which Barcelona play are familiar with a certain section of Barcelona managers who have strode back and forth in front of the touchline – Frank Rijkaard, Pep Guardiola and his successor Tito Vilanova. But rewind roughly 80 years and you would find a less continental name at the helm of a club struggling for their very lives in 1930s during the Spanish Civil war, because the Catalan club and area was associated so much with the Republican cause, and the immense pressure they came under almost caused them to fold.

Born and raised in working class Dublin, Patrick O’Connell used football as a method of escape. He joined Belfast Celtic in the early 1900s before transferring to Sheffield Wednesday, Hull City then Manchester United in May 1914, finishing his career with spells at Dumbarton and Ashlington while enjoying an international career with Ireland including captaining (with a broken arm) the side to a famous 3-0 victory at Ayrsome Park.

In 1922, for unknown reasons, Spain called to O’Connell and he left Irish shores and succeeded Englishman Fred Pentland as the manager of Racing Santander, guiding the side to five regional titles as they became founding members of La Liga in 1928. Between 1929 and 1935 as the world experience the Great Depression, O’Connell managed both Real Oviedo and Real Betis winning several titles with the latter. In the background right-wing tendencies were spreading across Spain and the Catalan region was becoming a focal point for resistance against these views. On the football pitch this manifested itself in the developing rivalry between Catalan Barcelona and the Franco-supported Real Madrid, a fierce and often bitter rivalry that still persists today. In the summer of 1935, O’Connell visited his native Ireland for a holiday and was appointed manager of Barcelona on his return after his successes with Betis hadn’t gone unnoticed. The club had gone into a decline during that decade, alongside the rising hostile political climate and success at the national level consistently evaded them. Things weren’t looking great.

What saved the club was the decision by O’Connell to take up an invitation to tour Mexico and America, for a guaranteed fee of around $15,000, a huge sum during the 1930s, throwing both the club a financial lifeline, and a period of respite and safety for the club’s players, some of whom had left to join forces in opposition to the military uprising, and who were feeling very unsafe. Thanks to O’Connell the tour was a PR success. The money was wired to a bank in Paris to ensure its safety from fascist hands, and the team eventually returned to Spain, consisting just of O’Connell and four other players from the original party which had travelled.  On his return to Spain, O’Connell left the club.

During the war years 1942-1945 O’Connell remained in Spain as the hand guiding Sevilla’s title ambitions, which never came to fruition before finishing his Spanish management career back where it all began at Racing Santander. What happened following his departure from Spain is unknown, all that is clear is that the man who ensured Barcelona’s survival through turbulent times died in obscurity in run-down lodgings in London in 1959. Today, the club still remembers the man who did so much for them; a bust of the man from Dublin sits in the Barca museum, part of their club’s history forever.

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The Irish Abroad

It is estimated that there are 70 million people in the world who claim to be Irish or who claim Irish origins or roots; did you know that? The spread of Irish people reaches every corner of the globe. While we are not viewed as a top football country, we hold a claim that wherever we travel we bring football with us. Here are elements of Irishness in world football that may come as a surprise to you.

Hibernian FC (Edinburgh, Scotland)
Hibs were the brain child of Cannon Edward Hannon and Michael Whelehan, who were members of the Catholic Youth Men`s Society. They were looking for a mechanism that would integrate the strong Irish population in the city with that of the natives. Whelehan put the idea of a football team to Hannon and this laid the foundation for the creation of Hibs.
The Cowgate area of the city, effectively known as “Little Ireland” was home to 12 000 Irish emigrants and in 1875 they were given a sense of community with the birth of the Hibees.  Hannon and Roscommon native Whelehan had established a model that would be followed in other Scottish cities.

Celtic FC (Glasgow, Scotland)

Glasgow boasted a far greater Irish population than Edinburgh during the late 1800`s.Brother Walfrid was an Irish Marist brother based in the city and was desperately trying to ease the plight of the Irish immigrants.
Walfrid was a keen fan of the Hibs model and had invited them to play in Glasgow on a few occasions, before deciding that the Irish population was so strong that they could have their own team. Thus, Celtic were born in 1888.To this very day the club maintain strong links with Ireland and boasts vast support there.

St Mirren FC (Paisley, Scotland)
St Mirren was founded in 1877 as a gentleman`s club boasting a variety of games including football, rugby and cricket. The club is named after Saint Mirren or Mirin who is the patron saint of Paisley.
Saint Mirren was born in Ireland and went to the monastery at Bangor Abbey in County Down. He became prior there and sought to spread the Christian Faith. His travels brought him to Scotland where under the leadership of St Regulus he brought the gospel to the west of Scotland. This is the only link the club has to the Emerald Isle.

Dundee United (Dundee, Scotland)
The last of the Irish links with Scottish teams takes us to Dundee United. Dundee United was founded originally in 1909 as Dundee Hibernian, an acknowledgement of the successful Hibees in Edinburgh. Dundee Harp had existed in the city from 1879 until 1897 but then the strong Irish population in the city needed a new club.
The club is known as the Tangerines, in reflection of the colour of the jerseys. When they originally founded they wore the traditional green and white hoops first used by Hibernian. A change of name in 1923 brought about a change of colour. The club was seen originally as a catholic outfit but have moved away from that. The only connection that the club still boast with Ireland is the Irish players they currently have amongst their ranks.

UD Salamanca (Salamanca, Spain)
The club were originally founded by Irish students in 1907 although they now claim their official year of foundation to be 1923. Not much is known about their Irish links but they set a trend that few Irish men would follow. Patrick O’Connell became manager of Racing Santander in 1922 and in recent times Kevin Moran (joined Sporting Gijon in 1988), Ian Harte (joined Levante in 2004) and Steve Finnan (joined Espanyol in 2008) have ventured to Spain in search of glory.

Velez Sarsfield (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
Velez Sarsfield are based in the Liniers neighbourhood of western Buenos Aires. The club was founded in 1910 and boast a rich and successful history, having won 7 titles to date, their most recent been in 2009. The club are named after Dalmacio Velez Sarsfield who was an Argentine Lawyer and politician of Irish descent. He wrote the Argentine civil code of 1869, which founded civil law within the country. 

Club Deportivo O’Higgins (Rancagua, Chile)

The Chilean club was founded in 1955 and were named after Bernardo O’Higgins, who was a South American independence leader, who helped free the country from Spanish rule. The club boast a tri colour as their crest in recognition of O`Higgins who was born in Chillàn to an Irish Father. His father was Ambrosio O’Higgins, a Spanish officer who was born in Ballynary, County Sligo.  Bernardo never met his father who was governor of Chile from 1788 until 1796 when he became the Viceroy of Peru.

St Patrick FC (Zabbar, Malta)

Originally known as Zabbar United from 1935, the club opted to change their name to St Patrick Fc.  This was in order to associate themselves with independence seekers, who sought to break free from the English hold over the country.  The club who currently play in the top flight of Maltese football boast a shamrock on their crest; this is an indirect link to Ireland.

Floriana FC (Floriana, Malta)
Floriana were founded in 1894 and are nicknamed The Irish, as they wear green and white. These colours were adopted in 1905 as at that time the Royal Dublin Fusiliers were stationed in the city. The regiment played Floriana three times that year in friendlies and they swapped shirts. The officials of the Fusiliers expressed their wish to see Floriana wear their colours and this is how it came into force.
The club were recently managed by former Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers manager Roddy Collins. They also boast a link with Shamrock Rovers.  
 

Montreal Impact (Montreal, Canada)
The club was originally known as Montreal Supra from 1988-1992 before it went out of business. The impact club was founded in 1993 to give Montreal a football team they so dearly craved.
The original club, Montreal Supra, were founded by the Montreal Hibernian society. The club itself emerged from the shadows of an older club, Montreal Hibernians, and the Irish population in the city had been strong for over a century.  The club also boasted top GAA and rugby teams.

Panathinaikos (Athens, Greece)
The club was founded in 1908 but while they boast a shamrock as their crest and wear a green jersey, they have no real Irish connection.

Guillermo Brown (Argentina)
Guillermo or William Brown was born in Foxford, County Mayo in 1777.He is regarded as a national hero in Argentina for helping win victories in the Argentine war of independence and he is also known as the father of the Argentine navy.  Four clubs exist in his honour. Club Atletico Almirante Brown was founded in 1917 in the town of Arrecifes. They compete in the Liga de futbol de Arrecifes.

Club Almirante Brown de Isidro Casanova were founded in 1922 in Isidro Casanova. They play in the Primera B Metropolitana. Brown Athletic Club were founded in Adroguè in 1945 as a multi sports club. They have never played in the Primera division.  Club Social Y Guillermo Brown or Guillermo Brown for short is a football team from Puerto Madryn in Chubut. Also founded in 1945, they play in the third tier of the Argentine league. 

By Glenn Dowd

 

 

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